The Institute of Cellular Therapeutics at the Allegheny Health Network consists of a team of doctors and scientisist working to treat and prevent autoimmune disease, metabolic disorders, and transplant rejection using the latest and most cutting-edge approaches. The Institute's strength is its emphasis on translational medicine, taking discoveries in the lab to the clinic. Doctors and scientists at the Institute are pursuing three major translational medicine arms:
1. Innovative technologies and clinical studies aimed at preventing and treating the inflammation that underlies the clinical onset of type 1 and type 2 diabetes with the objective or preventing and reversing the disease.
2. Biologic modulation, as well as cell and tissue engineering to reconfigure a patient’s immune system (white blood cells) so that it does not reject “self” and foreign transplants, including non-human tissues and organs.
3. Clinical programs and trials aimed at facilitating the transplantation of insulin-producing cells as a more stable approach to restore normal blood sugar regulation following removal of the pancreas in chronic pancreatitis.
Among the therapies that are in various stages of development:
A. Autologous tolerogenic dendritic cell therapy for type 1 diabetes, where a special population of white blood cells, expanded from the blood of the patients themselves, is given back to them to reset their immune system in order to limit or completely stop the autoimmune attack against their own insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.
B. Tolerogenic nanoparticle vaccines for type 1 diabetes to reprogram white blood cells inside a patient so that the autoimmune destruction of the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas is prevented or shut down.
C. Engineered thymic cell mini-organoids, which reconfigure the population of T-cells into a new state, which re-establishes the immune system of the patient with an autoimmune disease to interact normally, and not reject the disease target organ. A reconstructed “hybrid” thymus is also opening up the possibility of recognizing foreign tissue and organ transplants as “self,” reducing or totally eliminating the need for immunosuppression.
D. Inflammation-sensitive nanoparticles that release immunosuppressive drugs and biologics useful to control and suppress autoimmunity, selectively inside the region of active inflammation, and eliminate the bystander and systemic side effects.
E. Modulators of rapid-onset and innate immunity inserted as transgenes into the donor tissues to prevent the destructive early rejection processes involved in xeno-transplantation (the transplant into humans of non-human tissues and organs) in order to increase the likelihood of success of conventional immunosuppressive treatment.
F. Neutrophil-modifying bio-agents to prevent the inflammation that underlies metabolic syndromes, which lead to uncontrolled blood glucose, with type 2 diabetes as the primary disease target.
The Institute's scientists are inventors in a respectable number of innovative patents and the intellectual property has been leveraged by clinical-stage biotechnology entites.
The doctors and scientists of the Institute also initiate and collaborate in multi-center clinical trials in its sphere of interest.